A little about the zuihitsu

随筆 ZUIHITSU: a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author’s surroundings. The name is derived from two Kanji meaning “to follow” and “brush”, and thus works of the genre should be considered not as traditionally planned literary pieces but rather as casual or random jottings down of thought by their authors.

The zuihitsu is sometimes considered a form of prose poetry.  Others think it is more akin to a journal of sorts.  It is fragmentary, sometimes spontaneous, and relies on such devices as juxtaposition, contradiction, and haiku-like imagism.  Zuihitsu writings are contemplative, philosophical, and usually a bit pessimistic.  Some common Japanese themes of focus are “the unpleasantness of society” and “the impermanence of the material world,” as well as the very traditional Japanese themes of nature, the seasons, duty and honor.

The zuihitsu first emerged in the Heian period, with Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, and was a diary (of sorts) of her musings about life in the Imperial Court, and the natures and faults of the aristocracy.  The zuihitsu gained popularity in the Edo period.  But my favorite zuihitsu is The Narrow Road to the Interior by Kimiko Hahn, a contemporary Japanese-American poet who writes about (among other things) her ex-husband, her daughters, her love-affairs, her strong political views, her life as a teacher, etc.  Kimiko Hahn is one of my favorite poets, and while all of her poetry collections are amazing and passionate and thought-provoking, The Narrow Road to the Interior is by far my favorite.  It is that book which inspired by the name of this blog.  It seems a fitting name for such a random collection of thoughts and reflections as this blog will likely become.

(Some information was taken from the wikipedia page on zuihitsu writing.)


3 thoughts on “A little about the zuihitsu

  1. Pingback: Zuihitsu! Japanese Style Poem Prompt [Workshop] « poetArt

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